If an actor can become a governor (it’s happened twice now, if you’re counting), then a man who’s never taught a class can certainly become the superintendent of the state’s second largest school district.

Bill Kowba, the interim superintendent of the San Diego school district, is now virtually guaranteed to become the permanent chief as long as contract negotiations go smoothly. The school board voted 4-0 to make him the sole finalist, topping two other candidates.

The headline on Emily Alpert’s engaging analysis of what we can expect from Kowba — and how he got here — calls him “The Accidental Superintendent,” and no wonder: it’s true that the former Navy sailor hasn’t been a classroom teacher. Nor does he have a history of working for districts.

But, as one of his fans puts it, “Here is a guy who has been in the seat a couple of times and keeps coming back when others have fled. He strikes me as a keeper.”

In other news:

• Are parts of downtown still blighted? (“Blight” is a word that the government uses for neighborhoods that are run-down and in serious need of a pick-me-up.)

The City Council yesterday agreed to spend half a million dollars to discover out the answer to a question that may seem like it could be answered with two or three bus rides at $2.25 a pop.

The council is funding a study to determine if there’s still a need for the downtown redevelopment agency to keep its hands on taxpayer dollars (and spend even more of them) to improve things.

Unless the council changes things, the agency will run out of dough for some projects.

• You probably heard a lot about homeowners who’ve “walked away” from their homes: refused to pay their mortgage and allowed their banks to foreclose on them. This doesn’t do wonders for anyone’s credit rating, and some say it’s not exactly ethical, but people — like a local man we’ve been following named Fred West — continue to walk away.

Yesterday, West’s condo sold in an auction held on the downtown courthouse steps for $86,432.41, a cent over the opening bid. He bought it for a cool $250,000 back in 2005.

We hear from him about what he thinks about the bank that loaned him the mortgage money (dumb, he says) and how much he’s paying for rent (half as much as his mortgage cost). We’ve got more details about his situation in an earlier post.

• Recently, a national columnist at Bloomberg News highlighted a report from the San Diego County Grand Jury, which suggested that the city of San Diego step up its flirtations with bankruptcy. The column said the Grand Jury was responsible not only for criminal indictments but for these civic evaluations. 

We took the opportunity to run that through the Fact Check and explain what the Grand Jury he was referring to actually is. The reports the group produce often get a lot of attention because of the fact that they come from something with such an authoritative name associated with law enforcement. But it’s not the kind of grand jury that decides whether the DA has a case or not (though the county does have one of those, too).

The city of San Diego’s chief operating officer — miffed by the column — offered this analysis of civil grand juries: “They are composed of average citizens offering opinions on matters they may or may not understand or have adequately researched.”

Huh. Sounds a lot like a regular jury — the kind that doesn’t just issue reports about city finances but decides whether people go to prison. Or worse.

• In other education news, San Diego school district officials are previewing the 2010-2011 budget and say the required cutbacks are grim, but not quite as grim as those from the previous year.

• The latest edition of San Diego Explained, our video series, provides the 411 on who’s up and who’s down after the primary election earlier this month.


• Downtown train crossings will get safety improvements while trains won’t blow their horns as often to in an effort to create a “quiet zone,” the City Council determined yesterday. (U-T)

• Remember the $10 million “slush fund” that county supervisors used to divert taxpayer money to local causes and organizations they support? It’s now a $5 million fund, and the NCT says two supervisors — Pam Slater-Price and Bill Horn — want to use the other $5 million to support expanded fire services.

Horn, who was the only one to vote against cutting the fund, is up for reelection in November.

• Now here’s a warning for you: Eat a pot brownie in San Diego and you might die “an agonizing/painful death.”

So says a sheet from a local medical marijuana task force that a collective is distributing to patrons.

Really? A pot brownie is a possible ticket to the graveyard? Yes, CityBeat says. The issue, at least in the eyes of pro-pot folks, is food poisoning due to kitchens uninspected by the health department. And that brings up another issue: so why aren’t they inspected?

• The newsroom shuffle at the U-T continues to unfold.

As some have noticed, the newspaper’s editorial board is home to three white men (and only three white men) with the layoff of Latino columnist Ruben Navarette Jr.

Changes are coming, however: One of those board members, Patrick Flynn, will become the paper’s higher education reporter.

Meanwhile, the blog of editorial writer Chris Reed, a reliably libertarian/conservative voice, is temporarily on hold while the paper figures out its online strategy.

“I’d have thought that the U-T would have determined it’s future online strategy before abandoning it’s previous online strategy,” one commenter icily remarked, while another asked, “Is Mayor Sanders hiring again?” (A number of former U-T journalists have found new jobs at City Hall and the mayor’s office in particular. In fairness, though, the journalism-to-politics career path is hardly an unusual one.)

• Finally, the county animal shelter is temporarily waiving the adoption fee on dogs that have been at the pound more than a month or are older than five years. (LJ Light)

So there’s an added reason to pick up a middle-aged or senior dog. In a related story, dogs at the pound have suddenly stopped using Botox to hide their wrinkles. Even the Shar-Pei.


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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